Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Purgatory

OK, purgatory is another topic I haven't really dug too deep into. I understand it was another topic that fueled the protestant reformation movement. So what are some of the different beliefs on this topic?

Roman Catholics define purgatory as:
Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.
Some Eastern Catholics do not use the word purgatory, but believe there is a "final purification" for souls destined for heaven, and that prayers can help the dead who are in that state of "final purification".

The Eastern Orthodox church believes in an intermediate state after death, but also does not use the word purgatory. They believe that this intermediate state is a good place of light and rest for the righteous, and not a pleasant place for the wicked.

Judaism believes there is a place of purification, and some believe sinners spend up to a year there before their release.

C.S. Lewis, the protestant writer who wrote Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, said:
Of course I pray for the dead. At our age the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to Him? I believe in purgatory. Our souls demand purgatory, don't they? My favourite image on this matter comes from the dentist's chair. I hope that when the tooth of life is drawn, a voice will say, 'Rinse your mouth out with this.' This will be purgatory. (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 107-109)
Moody institute (an evangelical Bible university) has been quoted as saying: "...not all the dwelling places in heaven will be the same size.. it will depend on how well each person lives out their faith..."

A quote from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren:
One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity... he will ask us two crucial questions ...First, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?' ...Second, 'What did you do with what I gave you' ... the second question will determine what you do in eternity...(The Purpose Driven Life, pg. 34)
At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do...has eternal consequences...you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility in eternity ..." (The Purpose Driven Life, pg. 45)
St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
St. Augustine:
Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by ’some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment”
Pope Benedict XVI :
Purgatory is not some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e. capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints… Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy. [Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1994).]
OK, so it looks like most Christ followers (and even Judaisim) believe there is some form of purification that occurs after death. There are likely other points of view that I did not come across yet. I see this as a topic that is great for discussion. I don't believe our differences on this topic are big enough that Christ's body, His Church, should be divided over.

Further reading:
http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/purgatory.htm
http://benjiovercash.wordpress.com/2008/01/21/why-i-believe-protestants-should-reconsider-purgatory/

3 comments:

steve janz said...

Hey Jon,

Just a couple of thoughts for your consideration.

The teaching of Purgatory (a doctrine formulated by the RC church in 1439 & 1563) is based on the practice of prayer for the dead - which has to do with the dead being made pure for the purposes of entering the eternal joys of heaven:

RC Catechism 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.

I think there are a couple of issue at hand.

The primary one is the biblical teaching of atonement. If the above statement is true, the concept of purgatory and prayer for the dead (specifically atonement for their sins) totally nullifies the work of “justification through faith alone by grace alone” (Rom. 5:1 & Gal. 2:15-116 - which, as you know, is the primary issue and work of the cross). By the work of Chris on the cross alone are we declared completely righteous - not through a purging or act of purification after we die and helped along by the prayers of others.

The other issue at hand is the biblical teaching of being with Christ when we (ones who have experienced justification by faith) pass from this life (Luk. 23:39-43; Phi. 1:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:6-8).

As for the 1 Corinthians passage (a gentle rebuke here brother: I think you need to be careful not to lump all these quotes under the same umbrella. The thoughts from Moody or Warren are most certainly not a reference to anything that mirrors purgatory nor the does 1 Cor. passage. Yet in your writing it almost sounds like you are equating all of these together as some sort of preparatory purging or purification process before we can get to heaven) it is referring to rewards in heaven not the reward of heaven - which is clearly seen in the last verse: “...he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (a study on the concept of the “bema” or “judgement seat of Christ” [2 Corinthians 5:10] would fit into this subject).

Anyway Jon, just a few thoughts.

Also - a quick thought on the unity between the Father and the Son... I think one of the basis for their unity was the Father’s word and the truth of that word (John 17:14-19 - the verses in context leading up to the passage on unity). Had Jesus veered off the course of His Father’s word and the thoughts or will of His Father, I dare say, the unity would have been broken (we actually get a glimpse of sorts of this on the cross, where the unity is broken - and that of course, based on the truth of God’s absolute holiness and the Father not being able to bear to look on His Son who is carrying the sin of the world upon Himself).

grace and mercy on you Jon...

mrjhutton said...

Thanks Steve for taking the time to follow up on this.

I don't think catholics view the the process of purgatory as a salvation by works. From my understanding only those who are saved go through the process of purgatory.

Catholics agree with protestants that salvation comes by faith:
http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0303sbs.asp

Yes, you are correct about my use of the quotes from Moody and Warren, they were not speaking directly about something like purgatory. However they are talking about different levels of rewards based on works... (not just faith). So yes they were a bit off topic, but in some way similar.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Calvin claimed Jews started praying for dead in Rabbi Akibah's time, i e after rejecting Our Lord.

Maccabees II has a passage which shows that is not so. It is the Epistle text in Masses for the Defunct faithful, a k a Requiem Masses. Which were rejected by reformers.